Tinnitus is a sound perceived in the ears when no outside source of sound is present. The symptoms can be described in many ways, but it is most often described as “ringing in the ears.” Tinnitus is complicated and often misunderstood; it can be emotionally charged and scary for the affected party, while those who don’t understand it may downplay its real importance. The ailment is common in people both with and without hearing loss, but tends to be associated with hearing loss.

What Causes Tinnitus?

The physiological cause of tinnitus is unclear, but a commonly cited theory is that tinnitus is a perceived sound generated in the brain to accommodate for lost input (i.e. hearing loss). This is why people leaving loud concerts often describe a ringing they hear—they have a temporary hearing loss. Tinnitus can also be caused by an ear injury or by circulation disorders. Hearing loss often can lead to a disruption in the way information is represented within the auditory areas of the brain; the brain in turn creates sound (tinnitus) to compensate for the decreased stimulus. It is important to have a thorough assessment with your audiologist and physician to rule out any related health issues and begin your tinnitus treatment.

How Can Tinnitus Be Treated?

There is no cure for tinnitus, but it is possible to learn how to decrease the amount of attention you pay to the sound you hear so it is less distracting. Often a good starting treatment for tinnitus is hearing aids. Most people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss; a hearing aid amplifies outside sounds that can “mask” your awareness of the tinnitus. Sound therapy is another effective and common tinnitus treatment. Sound therapy is based on teaching your brain how to habituate to the tinnitus with the use of environmental sounds or with use of devices that deliver customized sound therapy based on your hearing profile. Tinnitus treatments take time to be effective, but with time and persistence, relief can be a reality.

Don’t let tinnitus distract you from living any longer. Contact Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center today to schedule a conversation about what options may be right for you.